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Tag: dance review

Romeo & Juliet by KS Dance | REVIEW

Romeo & Juliet by KS Dance | REVIEW

Last week, I was kindly invited along to watch Kate Simmons Dance perform their annual show and production of Romeo & Juliet, staged at The Bridley Theatre, Runcorn.

KS Dance are a vocational dance college based in Warrington, north west England. Founded by Kate Simmons, previously of London Festival Ballet as well as being a Cecchetti Faculty Committee Member, the professional vocational college has a strong emphasis on ballet, but it is not the only genre they teach. As such, the show was split into 2 halves – a variety show of musical theatre, jazz, hip hop, flamenco, contemporary, tap and singing, as well as a showcase of class variations, followed by a classical ballet production of Romeo & Juliet.

The first half really had something for everyone, with classic songs from broadway hits, to more modern musical theatre with a number from Hamilton, and current pop chart icons like Sia. The versatility in KS Dance students was phenomenal. Each contrasting number was executed with style and technique relevant to that particular genre. The acting and singing skills during the musical theatre numbers blew me away, there are some seriously talented triple threat students that attend!!!

Next came the class variations. This had been cleverly devised and set to showcase what the students master during classes, yet with a production feel. There were 5 levels of ballet, each group in their own colour costume, to make them easily distinguishable. It was a wonderful opportunity to see how ballet elements progress through the different stages, and how more advanced steps that we recognise in productions, are mastered.

Where the show really came into it’s own however, was Act II, KS Dance’s classical ballet production of Romeo & Juliet. The quality and technique displayed by all of the dancers was phenominal, but obviously the clandestine lovers stole the show. Not only were there jaw dropping height in the extensions, dizzying piroettes, and gravity defying leaps, but the level of maturity and acting displayed was captivating. For young students to be able to convey such levels of angst, passion and emotion, all the while exectuing difficult and intricate ballet steps, is a credit not only to them, but to their teachers.

All in all, KS Dance’s show was a hugely entertaining success, and what came across the most was the professionalism across the board. From the backstage warming up rituals, to the swift changes between acts in the first half (under 10 seconds each) and the gracious bows and curtseys at the finale, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d watched a an established, fully professinal dance company. Quality and maturity oozed from the students pores. A night of pure entertainment!

KS Dance host a showcase annually, and if you ever get the opportunity to watch, I would highly recomend it. There aren’t many shows you can pay under £15 a ticket and receive such high calibre dance and theatre in return. A must for any theatre enthusiast!

If you are interested in learning more about KS Dance and all that they offer, please head to their website http://ksd-online.co.uk/ Special thanks to Rupert Wiltshire for the invitation and Kate Simmons for allowing me an insight to her show.

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National Dance Company Wales AWAKENING Tour Review

National Dance Company Wales AWAKENING Tour Review

Having been a resident in Wales for almost 14 years now, these rolling hills are most definitely home, however I’m ashamed to say I have yet to watch the National Dance Company Wales perform! That is, untill, I was invited to review their current tour AWAKENING, and what’s even better, the performance would be at my local theatre Theatr Clwyd. I love supporting local independent theaters, as it would be such a loss to communities if they disappeared. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance!

NDCW are a contemporary dance company based at the Dancehouse in the Millenium Centre, Cardiff. They aim to provoke people into discovering dance, talking thinking and understanding, as well as participating. They tour around Wales, and the UK as well as overseas, bringing their works to people who may not otherwise get a chance to watch. Their current tour AWAKENING is a triple bill.

AFTERIMAGE

This piece will have you at war with what you see and what you think you see. The term ‘seeing is believing’ both applies and does not, at the same time. By the end of the 20 minute performance, you will have changed your mind at least 10 times on how the effects were achieved, or put it down to sheer sorcery!

The stage is set with a large mirror as the backdrop, with a simple table and 2 chairs infront of it. A man sits on one of the chairs. As he starts to move, so too, does his refelction. He looks at his reflection, almost pondering it, then lools back into his hands. Suddenly, we see another dancer on the opposite side of the table, but no other dancer has entered the stage, she is interacting with the dancers reflection!

What ensues is the most magicical illusion of dancers acting and reacting with one another on stage or their reflections, fading in and out into the darkness. As the tension builds in the music, so do the dancers interactions, becoming more intense, with more dancers fading in and out. I can only describe them as ghosts at a seance, trying to connect to the physical world. Spirits and souls inahbiting the bodies on the stage. It’s truly a spectacle, and the auditorium was a buzz with thoughts and theories well after it had ended.

THEY SEEK TO FIND THE HAPPINESS THEY SEEM

A duet with a danceworks that echoes relationships. One of finding eachother and happiness, moving as one, blissfully unaware of anything else apart from the significant other. There was real tenderness to their movements.

But just as much as they are together as one, so too are they their own seprate entities. Occasionally breaking away from one another, going in seperate directions and finding their own movements and rhythms.

The tension and speed at which they were moving kept building until the end, when they came together again. They showed such strength and control in their bodies, it was as if watching in slow motion. And just like a circle, everything comes back to the beginning, and they were as one again.

REVELLERS’ MASS

My favorite piece. The music started as an acapella choir, what you might imagine hearing in a small secluded church, tucked away in italian hills. A huge altar was set on stage, with the candles being progressively lit by the ‘master’. The others were walking and moving in a calm, hushed manor. In hind sight, the proverbial quiet before the storm.

The master became the conductor, as he summoned others at his beck and call. Their movements became so intense and erratic, it appeared they had been possessed, and the master was performing some sort of exorcism ritual. This intense chaos slowly spread like a fever to the rest of the dancers, convulsive and explosive. This high tempo, agressive feel stayed for longer than was comfortable, tension remained high. Then just as suddenly as the storm came, it passed. But the mess and destruction left behind was plain to see.

The final scenes are reminiscent of the day after the night before house party. Everyone slightly bewildered, listless, faced with the mamouth task of tidying up and someone always has to be dragged off to recover!

All in all, AWAKENING triple bill was an evening of fascination, connection and power. It leaves you questioning the boundaries of dance and it’s power to convey ideas and provoke thoughts long after you’ve left the auditorium. It stays with you.

AWAKENING will stop at The Hafren Newtown on Thursday 21st on March, before continuing on it’s nationwide tour, finishing in May. More details of dates and venues can be found on their website https://ndcwales.co.uk/awakening

*special thanks to Guy and Nia from NDC and Theatr Clwyd*

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Interview with Richard Winsor AKA Tony Manero

Interview with Richard Winsor AKA Tony Manero

Richard Winsor is a household name in the UK. Tele addicts may know him as Farther Fransis from Hollyoaks or Caleb from Casualty, whereas dance fanatics would recognise him from the movie StreetDance 3D or as the lead in Sir Matthew Bourne’s critically acclaimed Swan Lake (you can read more about that production here Matthew Bourne’s New Adventure SWAN LAKE Review ) Whether its acting or dancing, Richard’s talents know no bounds, and his latest role – Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever – allows him to combine 2 of his passions! I spoke with Rich about taking on such a huge task, read on below!

 

D.N. You were classically trained, attending Central School of Ballet and later becoming a company member of New Adventures. Was dance your first love?

R.W. Yes I guess it was. My mum ran a dance school in Nottingham, so I grew up being surrounded by dance, it’s in my blood.Richard Winsor (Tony) - Saturday Night Fever - UK Tour (c) Pamela Raith Photography_090

 

D.N. How did you get into acting?

R.W. Ballet is such a strong discipline which lends itself well to acting, remembering your lines and rehearsing them over and over to commit them to memory. I have just as much love for acting. I went on as many courses and workshops as I could, it was a real driving force for me.

 

D.N. Saturday Night Fever is such an iconic film and combines dancing and acting. Is it a dream role for you, and did you watch the film to prepare?

R.W. It’s the perfect show for me. I get to be physical in the dancing scenes and really show off my acting skills. Its quite a dark and gritty story. This stage production is a brand new version. We’ve tried to stay as true to the film as we could!

* It’s so iconic, I mentioned it in my list of top dance movies to watch! Have a look Top dance films you NEED to watch right now  *

 

D.N Do you have a favourite scene from the show?

R.W. Yeah I love all the scenes with Tony’s family in. You get to see the dynamics of his family and his roots. It helps you to really understand him as a person.Saturday Night Fever - UK Tour (c) Pamela Raith Photography_ 026

 

D.N. Tony Manero, played by John Travolta in the film, is such a big character to play! How did you prepare for that and did you practice his legendary strut?

R.W. Tony is a great character to get into and bring to life. He’s multidimensional. He has this huge love for dance, charismatic and also arrogant, nut at the same time, almost naive to life, until auditions open him up to the world. And yes, I practiced ‘THE STRUT’The Cast of Saturday Night Fever - UK Tour (c) Pamela Raith Photography_013

 

D.N. Tony portrays this big bravado, but is also very self critical and full of self doubt. Have you ever experienced the same and how do you overcome it?

R.W. That’s a great question. I think everyone in this industry will have self doubt at one point or another. It’s almost a natural thing. You face a lot of rejection and it can cripple you if you don’t have the right mindset. You have to take it with a pinch of salt, remember it’s not about your talent, more that you went quite what they were looking for. It’s all about mindset and vision, using rejection and self doubt as a driving force to better yourself. Negativity is dangerous in this line of work. It will kill your performance.Richard Winsor (Tony) - Saturday Night Fever - UK Tour (c) Pamela Raith Photography_023

 

 

D.N. What would be your biggest piece of advice to aspiring actors and dancers out there who want to succeed?

R.W. PREPARATION IS KEY! Actors – really get to know your character so that you become them and give the best of your ability! Dancers – stay physically fit, work on all different genres. To everyone – put the work and time in. Know your role inside out. Be the best you can be!

 

Saturday Night Fever is currently touring and will be visiting the Palace Theatre Manchester from Tuesday 22nd Jan until 26th Jan, tickets available here ATG TICKETS It then continues on its tour to York, Carlisle, Hull, Sheffield and Leeds.

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Projection Dance Company’s THE ZOO Review

Projection Dance Company’s THE ZOO Review

Last week I attended the world premier of THE ZOO, a contemporary dance works by PROJECTion Dance, a company founded by renowned Australian dancer and choreographer Tim Podesta.

Performed for one night only at Sadlers Wells’ Lilian Baylis Studio, ‘The Zoo‘, along with ‘Informal Inbetween‘ provided the springboard to launch Projection Dance in the UK. The works starred London based dancers James Pett and Travis Clausen-Knight, both currently also dancing with Company Wayne McGregor.

Informal Inbetween‘ was a dance of contrasts, starting with the monochrome colour scheme of the costumes. The stage was dimly lit, apart from the stark spotlight on the dancers. They would continually burst into the light then fall back into the shadows, the light giving them life, and the darkness suspending them in time.

Both the dancers style of performance echoed the opposition – Travis dancing with balletic flair, awe inspiring strength and control, in what can only be likened to Tai Chi and James dancing with fire and aggression, teetering on the point of losing control yet still holding onto his trained technique.

Informal Inbetween‘ was the perfect presedence to set the tone for ‘The Zoo ‘ , which is based on Edward Albert’s play The Zoo Story. Bringing up topics such as social divides, isolation and mental health, ‘The Zoo‘ was, at times, uncomfortable to watch, which is why it’s so important to highlight these themes and give them a platform.

Again, the costumes played a huge part in the visual contrast. Travis assuming the role of the upper class buisness man, in buisness attire, lesuirly reading on a park bench. His poise and posture also added layers to the character. He used his steady control to make all of his movements well placed and with intention.

This was in direct contrast to James, playing a character hard up on his luck and desperate for interaction. Rounded shoulders and a downwards gaze, he would slump through steps, then suddenly burst and shake with rage when his emotions would overflow. To be able to dance with such raw emotions that transcend the audience yet still hold onto control is no mean feat, and mesmerising to watch.

The piece slowly built in tension. They began with solo sections. James goading and provoking, looking for interaction. Travis, cool and self restrained. It culminated with their duet. Like fire and ice, anger and desperation were neutralized by calm and compassion. Suddenly events took a dramatic and violent twist, which left the auditorium eerily quiet.

The Zoo is an intruiging and thought provoking piece. It will force you to question your day to day life and the interactions with other humans. You will ponder about the power of your words and actions and their consequences – things that don’t need to be said, things that cannot be undone.

We could all take heed of the themes, suppress our own egos and share more compassion with fellow humans, not matter their status, wealth, sexual orientaions, or mental state. We all walk the path of life together, and all yern for the most basic of human needs – love.

Although The Zoo was a launch performance, Tim Podesta hopes to bring the production back next year for a longer run, enabling more people to experience the rollercoaster, and share the messages within it.

My next article will be a Q&A with Tim, delving more into the themes presented in The Zoo, the working relationship between Travis and James and bringing the production to the UK.

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Raymond Briggs THE SNOWMAN Stage Show Review

Raymond Briggs THE SNOWMAN Stage Show Review

Fewer things are as magical as having children at Christmas time. It’s a time of awe and wonder, giving and sharing, and reliving family traditions. One such tradition for my family, as I’m sure it is for many others, is curling up on the sofa in our pyjamas on Christmas eve, and waiting The Snowman animation together. It’s what I did as a child, what I do now with my children, and hope it’s what they do with their children in the future, with fon memories of their own.

The Snowman, written by Raymond Briggs in 1978, was first broadcast as an animation in 1982, and has been a huge success ever since. And so, it seems, has the stage version of the show. Admittedly, I wasn’t aware of the production, perhaps with living in the north, and the show only being staged in London. However the production has been at Sadlers Wells for just over 20 years now, and continues to – ahem – *snowball* in popularity.

As you walk into Sadlers Wells Peacock Theatre, the magic is already visible. The stage setting is chunky and caricature like in style, as if the trees have been lifted right off the pages of the book. The lights are dimly lit, with blue hues to show off the projected ‘snowflakes’ that are whirling round the stage, giving the whole stage a snow globe effect. The programmes are hugely interactive for little people,with games, puzzle and colouring in sections, as well one great background information for the adults.

The music begins and the magic truly starts. The familiar melodies and tunes by Howard Blake transport you to another world, and we peer into the life of the boy and his mother and father on Christmas eve. Much like the animation, there are no words or narrative. The whole story is told by the music wonderfully expressive dancing. The dancing is fairly contemporary in style, to help with the individual concepts, like how the boy uses big, exagerated leg movements as he trudges though the snow, or the choir lulling side to side as they sing carols.

The Snowman has been on stage since the boy first created it, and suddenly jumps to life, much to the amazement of the audience! For those that are old enough to remember, his movements are remenicent of Mr Soft from the Trebor Softmint advert! This much amuses the children in the audience, with their shreiks and laughter echoing around the auditorium. They are totally captivated by him!

All the scenes are exactly as they are in the animation, with the addition of some creative characters, limbo dancing fruit, a music box ballerina en pointe, a toy soldier, and forest animals. Not forgetting Jack frost, who evokes a pantomime feel to the whole thing – the children loving to boo and hiss at his naughty antics! These characters have been written into the story seamlessly, blending so well with the original characters, that you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d always been a part of the story.

The production has a generous dousing of magic throughout, but by far the most captivating is the flying scene. As soon as the first few bars of “walking in the air” are played, the auditorium goes quiet, as you watch the Snowman and the boy take to the air, in what has to be the most nostalgic piece of theatre I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching.

The Snowman and women dance considerably well given their rounded nature, with plenty of jumps and lifts. Althought how they don’t melt whilst undertaking these tasks under the stage lighting is amazing! I interviewed the ‘Fred Astaire’ snowman in a Q&A article which you can read here http://danceniche.com/2018/11/30/qa-with-cameron-ball-cast-member-of-the-snowman-stage-production/

Another welcome character is the big man himself, Father Christmas. The children’s faces all lighting up whenever he is on stage. I wonder how he finds the time in his busy work schedule to perform everyday, and put his spritliness down to all the sherry he must be drinking! Watching him piroette and leap about the stage makes it quite clear how he is able to indulge in all the mince pies he will soon be eating!

The final sprinkling of magic is after the finale and when the cast have all disappeared. I do not want to spoil the surprise for you, so i’ll say this…..it is well worth staying in the auditorium after the finale, as the production brings a little of the outside, inside, with ‘dusting’ of joy and a ‘flurry’ of excitement for all.

The Snowman is currently being shown at Sadlers Wells Peacock Theatre until 6th January. More information on dates and times can be found in their website https://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/2018/the-snowman/

All in all, The Snowman stage shows manages to capture the essence of the animation and takes something that is so ingrained in the public’s hearts and minds, and do it justice whilst offering new highlights to keep it fresh and exciting. It’s a must see production for the whole family, and something that will bring you back year upon year, creating a new Christmas tradition that all will treasure for years to come.

*special thanks goes to Sadlers Wells Peacock Theatre and photographer Tristram Kenton*

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Rambert – A Linha Curva

Rambert – A Linha Curva

Sitting down to watch the famous Rambert Company put on their production at my local theatre – Theatr Clwyd, I was not sure what to expect. I’ve seen productions before, but non quite like this! It consists of individual, very distinct pieces, each with their own feel , costumes and choice in music, not to mention the style of dancing in each piece! It’s almost like separate productions, which most certainly keep you entertained the whole way through, interest never waning.

The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses

The opening scene is that of a house, with a table and chairs, a window, a bed and various doors. This piece is based upon a short animation film ‘Tango’ released in 1981. It begins with a woman sat motionless at the table, staring intently in front. She never moves. Slowly, one by one, we are introduced to new ‘characters’, the boy with the ball, the school girls, the loved up couples, the couple who’ve obviously had an argument, the woman with the baby, the athlete, the toilet repair man, the woman with shopping bags, the bedraggled woman still in her nightdress, and my favourite – the man in a twee Jumper carrying a Christmas tree! They enter through the various doors (with slams echoing the music) or window, with their own set movements lasting a couple of bars, moving individually around the room, then exiting before appearing again to perform the exact same movements. Like layers of paper mache, it begins with just one solitary story, then builds as each new character enters, ending in a bustling room full of people living their daily lives, yet never colliding, the rhythm of life. As you watch, you get a real sense of just how habitual humans are, stuck in a never ending cycle, Groundhog Day.

Symbiosis

An altogether different feel, contrasting greatly from the first piece. Symbiosis begins with a slatted screen, curving in the centre, an almost sun like shape, silhouetted by a stark bright light behind. The sinister music immediately puts you on edge – the type of music in a film where the main character is being hunted down or similar stressful situation. This is also reflected in the dancing, with the dancers interacting with each other and the choreography much more athletic, almost acrobatic. For me, it took on an Eastern feel part way through, with the constant humming of a gong bath, and the lighting behind changing to red, which with the shape of the slatted scenery, was reminiscent of the Japanese flag. This was also echoed in the choreography, becoming Thai Chi like in execution – controlled and purposeful yet fluid and free flowing. Again, the music and choreography are cleverly brought together, with athletic jumps that upon landing, echoed the beat being played by the live orchestra, adding yet another level to the percussion.

A Linha Curva

This makes a huge impact on curtain up, being dazzled by the reflective collars of the dancers, and the bellowing sound of them chanting, enough to startle you! This tribal theme is also represented in the music, which I defy you not to move in your seat to! There is a section that is acapella , with only the sounds of the jumps, claps and grunts of the dancers dictating the rhythm. We then see a group of male dancers and a single solitary female dancer. This section takes on that of a courting ritual of the bird of paradise – each male displaying his skills of athleticism, hoping to woo the female. The woman then decides she can dance better than her suitors, showing them just how it ought to be done, accompanied by the whoops and cheers from the men which are almost cat calling like. So the boys are left to their own devices and naturally, rivalry kicks in. What can only be described as a testosterone filled dance off between the alpha males. Then the climax. With music straight from a carnival in Brazil, and individual squares of brightly coloured lighting creating a grid on the floor of the stage. It’s such an intricate piece, with each dancer staying within a square of light, but still using the whole space of the stage. It’s hard to tell if the dancers are following the light patterns, or the lights are following the dancers. The precision needed by the dancers to perform the choreography yet train within their meter squared space is commendable. You cannot help but be swept away by the party atmosphere with this last piece, an audible and visual delight to conclude the production!

I must mention that there was a woman to the right of the stage, miming the music. She was so intricate in her movements that a first glance, I thought she was actually playing an instrument. This just goes to show how integral the music is to the whole of the production, that it requires someone to mime and explain the sounds of each piece to those with hearing difficulties, thus giving them the complete experience.

Rambert are performing at Theatr Clwyd until Saturday 10th March. Tickets are still available. To book, call the box office on 01352 701521 or visit their website www.theatrclwyd.com

They then head off to continue their tour with A Linha Curva and other productions at the following places;

Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Thu 15 – Sat 17 Mar 2018

www.atgtickets.com

Theatre Royal Brighton

Wed 21 – Sat 24 Mar 2018

www.atgtickets.com

New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Tue 27 – Thu 29 Mar 2018

www.atgtickets.com

Sadler’s Wells, London

Tue 22 – Sat 26 May 2018

www.sadlerswells.com

Bergen International Festival, Norway

Wed 6 Jun 2018

www.fib.no

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Thu 22 – Sat 24 Nov 2018

www.capitaltheatres.com

All this information can also be found on Rambert’s website www.rambert.org.uk

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